A court of appeal in Gothenburg has upheld the acquittal of three men charged with having plotted to murder Swedish artist Lars Vilks.
Following the same line of reasoning applied by the lower court, the
appeals court found that there were a number of circumstances that
raised suspicions that the three men had been planning an attack on
Vilks, who has been the target of numerous death threats since his
drawing of the Prophet Mohammed as a dog was first published by a
Swedish regional newspaper in 2007.
For example, the suspects were looking for Vilks at an art exhibition at
the Röda Sten gallery in Gothenburg on the night of September 11th,
2011 – the night they were arrested.
All three were also carrying knives at the time of their arrests, and
had given police faulty information about what they had been doing in
the days prior to the arrests.
But according to the court of appeal, there is no concrete evidence
linking the suspects to claims by the prosecutor that they intended to
murder Vilks, even if the men were no strangers to violence.
The prosecutor appealed the district court's acquittal of the men to the
Court of Appeal for Western Sweden because she believed there was
sufficient evidence for a conviction.
The three men were arrested along with a fourth man, no longer
considered a suspect, by an elite counter-terrorism unit in Gothenburg.
The unit had evacuated hundreds of people from the Röda Sten gallery as
it hosted a September art fair "after concluding that there was a threat
that could endanger lives or health or cause serious damage".
Vilks had initially said on his blog that he would attend the art fair although he did not in the end.
The three suspects – one Somali citizen and two Swedes in their mid-20s –
were all carrying knives when they were arrested and were, according to
the prosecution, planning to stab Vilks to death.
The men were initially suspected of terror crimes, but the charges were later downgraded to preparing to commit murder.
All three men were however convicted and fined for violating Sweden's weapons laws.